Tallahassee, Florida- July 23, 2012
From shoving and name calling at school to harassment and badgering through computers and cell phones, bullying has gone viral. But that's nothing new. Bullies have been using the internet to do their dirty work for years. What is new is the increase in cyber bullying, especially among adolescents and teens.
According to the i-SAFE foundation, more than one in three young people have experienced threats online … and more than half of all adolescents and teens have been bullied on the internet.
"It affects their learning, their performance. We see instances where students may have been bullied to the point where their attendance fails, their performance in school fails," said Kathleen Rodgers, Ph.D., Divisional Director of Intervention, Equity and Support Services
Equity Officer and Title IX Compliance Coordinator.
Rodgers has worked for the Leon County School system for more than three years dealing specifically with this problem. Over the years, she's seen the transformation from school yard bullies to cyber bullies and the impact they have on their victims.
"When you see your gem, your child that has been affected by an instance of being bullied, it really touches you to the core and something needs to be done," Rodgers said.
In Leon County, teachers go through training to learn how to handle bullying situations and posters are plastered all throughout the halls.
Montford Middle School even put together and ran skits during its morning announcements to show students what not to do, yet there are instances that still go unreported.
But Children do not have to go it alone - FDLE says parents can and should step in, and they have this handy tip sheet to help.
"I think it's the job of the parents and this community to put that message out there that we are not going to stand for anyone to bully other children," said Mike Phillips, FDLE Chief of Investigations.
Mike Phillips with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has worked with computer crimes for 15 years. He says there isn't much that can be done from a legal standpoint - but says parent involvement can go a long way to keeping kids safe from online bullies.
"Look at what they're doing on the computers. Use the software that's available to you to monitor what your kids are doing on the computer," Phillips said.
He also suggests creating rules for Internet use at home and never allowing children to surf the net alone.
"As far as bullying is concerned, it's not a petty act of misconduct. Just one instance of bullying - just one - opens the door to many others," said Rodgers.
Punishment for bullying in the school system ranges from detention to possible expulsion.